What was the last thing you ordered off of Amazon? Socks? A book? Maybe a new backpack or shower gel? Regardless of what it was, have you ever stopped to think how on earth those items get to you in just 2 days? Well here is your answer: ROBOTS. Yes, the fate of your new backpack, shower gel, or pretty much anything else is in the hands of small orange robots that look like a Roomba. Their names are Kiva Robots, and they have more than 7x the capability of human employees- and they don’t require a paycheck. Today Amazon “employs” more than 45,000 of them, so isn’t it about time you knew what exactly they are? Here are the basic Kiva facts:
- Kiva Robots were introduced in order to help speed up the warehouse process to ensure your package gets to you in 2 days
- Robots are sent orders electronically, with specific rack and pod numbers. They are able to locate the inventory rack and carry it over to a picking station where a human employee waits to take the inventory pod for packaging off the shelf
- They can lift up to 750 lbs, and have motion sensors that detect their surroundings so that they don’t run into each other
- Robots shorten the assembly time by hours, allowing for up to 50% more orders to be fulfilled each day
It’s a good thing these robots are efficient because just one can cost anywhere between $1 million and $2 million…. and Amazon has 45,000 of them whizzing around. And remember, that cost doesn’t include unexpected maintenance. Although the investment for them is huge, it seems as though Amazon is pleased with Kiva’s performance because more and more warehouse centers around the US are implementing Kivas. Although this is great news for the consumer, it begs the question…what happened to all those employees that used to be doing Kiva’s job?
That answer is a little tricky. Many employees have been displaced- moved to other jobs in the warehouse whether it be picking, packaging, or managing/maintaining robots. Not all centers have the robots yet, so if possible employees have been moved to different geographic locations. Even with all the shifts in employment, some have lost their jobs to a robot. And Amazon is hiring less and less personnel to their warehouses as more and more Kiva robots excel at their job. Amazon is becoming the leading company to employee artificial intelligence, and it is continuing to shift the supply chain that gets your product from the computer screen to you. Robots help shorten lead time and make a delivery of a package of socks from a warehouse in California to a customer in Boston feasible in just 48 hours.
But still, 10 years from now, will there be any human employees left in warehouses? Will robots also be the ones to deliver your package to your door? Will they also be ones writing blogs such as these? Only time will tell, but the next time you get a package from Amazon in the mail- be sure to thank Kiva.
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